Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Aid for Afghanistan Given in "Shamelessly Propagandistic Way," Says Financial Time

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Aid for Afghanistan Given in "Shamelessly Propagandistic Way," Says Financial Time

Article excerpt

When Afghanistan's interim president, amid Karzai, went cap in hand to Tokyo at the end of January, most European newspapers were concerned that the pledged aid of more than $4.5 billion will not be enough. The funds, of which $1.8 billion will be available this year, are conditional on Afghanistan abiding by the agreement reached last December in Bonn, where the various factions promised to cease inter-tribal hostilities, establish representative government, and eliminate terrorism and the drug trade. Conflict may already be threatening this unity, said the UK's Guardian on Jan. 22. "Factionalism, banditry and crime are reportedly on the rise in many parts of the country away from Kabul, especially in the Pashtun south," noted an editorial.

London's Financial Times on the same day criticized some donor countries' grandstanding ways, claiming: "Several participants appeared more interested in playing to the gallery than in helping the 25 million Afghans. Aid figures were massaged in a shamelessly propagandistic way. The insistence on providing bilateral funds rather than pooling money in a national trust fund will greatly complicate relief efforts."

The US. promised $296 million, limiting its commitment to this financial year, which, according to the Jan. 22 Guardian, "will inevitably raise questions about America's staying power." The Times of London fretted the following day about the financial projections used by the United Nations to assess how much is needed to reconstruct Afghanistan: "They are almost silent on the central point: what this brave new country will do to earn a living. Not poppies, it [the U.N.] says sternly-but then what? The financial model laid out before the conference reads like a dot.com business plan: the costs are minutely spelled out, almost to the salary of each doctor and civil servant (not hard, as there aren't many). But there is no top line, no revenue-and no answers."

Writing in the UK's conservative Daily Telegraph on Jan. 23rd, veteran Afghanistanwatcher Ahmed Rashid reported on the challenges facing the U.N.: With billions of dollars of aid money on the way, development experts are fighting among themselves to snag lucrative projects, said Rashid, but "only a few of them are consulting Afghans about their needs and the priorities for reconstruction." While Afghanistan experts favor "minimal government and maximum autonomy in the provinces," the United Nations favors a centralized state, which would allow U.N. managers to use development projects as carrots to keep warlords in line. Rashid also expressed concern that donor nations will pour money into high-profile projects "such as promoting women's rights or education, while not providing sufficient funds for more mundane items, such as budgetary support to the new government, agriculture and rebuilding the infrastructure."

Predictions of U.S. Split With Europe if Bush Declares War On Iraq

As the U.S. came closer to declaring outright war on Iraq, European dailies asked whether a rift between Europe and the U.S. would be the result of such a move. Berlin's Die Welt wrote on Feb. 15 that, as Washington is "determined" to launch a strike against Iraq, Germany needs to decide how it is going to respond. "The German government will have to adopt a position on a demand for limited military and unlimited political support-- possibly during the height of a very heated election campaign," noted the paper, "which means at the worst possible moment." War against Saddam Hussain might be sensible, it continued, but the US. president's "battle cry-like" conviction that the regimes in Iraq, North Korea and Iran must be driven out is presently unconvincing.

"Everything is falling into place for a punitive military operation between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers in Iraq," said Switzerland's Le Temps the same day. It added, however, that three European foreign ministers-France's Hubert Vedrine, Germany's Joschka Fischer and Britain's Jack Straw-recently have expressed what the paper calls "the beginnings of a front rejecting American unilateralism! …

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